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Board recognizes students for achievements

Board of Education recognizes students for achievements in academics, athletics, and the fine arts

During its regular monthly meeting on Monday, May 23, the Gaston County Board of Education brought attention to students for their achievements in academics, athletics, and the fine arts.  The students were honored during the “good news” portion of the meeting.  Below is a look at the honorees:  

Joseph Norris, U.S. Air Force Academy
Joseph Norris from the Highland School of Technology received a prestigious appointment to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.  He plans to major in aeronautical engineering and minor in nuclear weapons and strategy. 

This is one of the most significant accomplishments a high school student can achieve.  Norris hopes to attend flight school and become a fighter aircraft pilot.

Avery Lester, U.S. Congressional Medal
Avery Lester from South Point High School earned the Congressional Gold Medal Award, which is presented by the United States Congress for accomplishments in volunteer service, personal development, physical fitness, and exploration. 

The Gold Medal requires 800 hours of service.  Lester’s activities include volunteering at Holy Angels and with Meals on Wheels; focusing on swimming and diving to meet the requirements for physical fitness; and taking an expedition to national parks such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Sequoia to meet the exploration requirement. 

Ajhinae Brooks, QuestBridge Scholar
Ajhinae Brooks from the Highland School of Technology received the QuestBridge Scholarship to attend Rice University in Houston, Texas.  The scholarship is a full-tuition award valued at $200,000.

Brooks was identified as a QuestBridge Scholar because of her outstanding academic ability and achievement.  At Rice University, she plans on majoring in cognitive science and minoring in psychology.  

Wehazit Mussie, UNC Morehead-Cain Scholar
Wehazit Mussie from the Highland School of Technology is the recipient of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship from UNC-Chapel Hill.

At UNC, Mussie plans to major in environmental health science through the Gillings School of Global Public Health and then go to medical school.  She eventually wants to work as a pediatrician.

Being a Morehead-Cain Scholar runs in the Mussie family.  Two years ago, her brother, Urael, also received UNC-Chapel Hill’s most prestigious scholarship.

Allen Chen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Allen Chen from the Gaston Early College High School was accepted to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This is an incredible opportunity for Chen because not everyone gets accepted to attend MIT.  He hopes to become a computer engineer, and best of all, his schooling is paid for through various scholarships and grants.

Additionally, Chen earned a perfect score on the math portion of the SAT, which is very difficult to achieve.

Samantha Bolton, Georgia Institute of Technology
Samantha Bolton from Forestview High School was accepted to attend six universities this fall, and she selected the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Bolton, who plans to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather and her mother to become an engineer, recently found out that her grandfather was not allowed to attend Georgia Tech in 1953 because of racial segregation.  That is one of the reasons why she chose Georgia Tech as a tribute to her grandfather.

Rex Dover and Paolo Sexton, Gaston County Spelling Bee
Rex Dover of Belmont Middle School correctly spelled “ramification” to win The Gaston Gazette Spelling Bee and earn the opportunity to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.  

Dover emerged as the winner from a field of 43 students representing public, charter, and private schools to win the countywide competition on March 29 at the Gastonia Conference Center.  (Dover was not able to attend the Board meeting.) 

Additionally, Paolo Sexton from York Chester Middle School did an outstanding job in the competition, finishing in second place as the runner-up.

Seth Samonds, SATELLITE Leadership Conference
Seth Sammonds from Bessemer City High School had the opportunity to participate in the SATELLITE leadership conference at N.C. State University in Raleigh.  SATELLITE stands for Science and Technology Enriching Lifelong Leadership in Tomorrow’s Endeavors.

SATELLITE is a STEM outreach and leadership development program that introduces high school students to science and technology-related educational and career paths.  Samonds was one of only 60 sophomore students from across the state to be chosen for the SATELLITE leadership program.

All-State Band: Jerry Bradley, Aaron Hollar, and Ruby Ruiz
Jerry Bradley of South Point High School, Aaron Hollar of East Gaston High School, and Ruby Ruiz of W.C. Friday Middle School were chosen for the North Carolina Bandmasters Association’s all-state honors band.  They participated in this year’s all-state concert, which was held at Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill.

In addition to the state concert, the three students performed during the South Central All-District Band Concert, which was held at Stuart W. Cramer High School in January.

All-State Chorus: Erin Watson
Erin Watson of Forestview High School, along with Issac Londeree of Ashbrook High School, and Nate King and Tristan Nogueira, both from Stuart W. Cramer High School, represented Gaston County Schools in the all-state honors chorus.  (Londeree, King, and Nogueira were not able to attend the Board meeting.)  

The four all-state chorus members from Gaston County were chosen from approximately 750 students who applied.  Only 176 were selected.   

Watson, who has been singing since she was three years old, has been involved in the choral program at Forestview for four years.  Her vocal and acting talent resulted in her stealing the show as “Audrey II” in the school’s spring production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Art Show Winners: Rhiannon Wollmuth, Erin Poteat, and Trinity Ledford
Three students were the overall winners in the Gaston County Schools “Through An Artist’s Eyes” art show. 

Rhiannon Wollmuth from Hunter Huss High School won the Best in Show honor.  Erin Poteat from Ashbrook High School received the Directors Choice Award, and Southwest Middle School student Trinity Ledford earned the James C. Biggers Award.

“Through An Artist’s Eyes” is on exhibit in the spring at the Gaston County Museum in Dallas.  It gives students the opportunity to showcase their artwork in a number of different categories like painting, photography, sculpture, and mixed media.

Cherryville High School Cheerleaders
The Cherryville High School cheerleading team won state championships at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Cheerleading Invitational in two categories, and the team participated in the North Carolina Cheerleading Coaches Association competition and won another first place state award.

Since 2008, the Cherryville High School cheerleaders have won 22 state championships under the direction of coach and adviser Wendy Holt.

East Gaston High School Cheerleaders
The cheerleaders from East Gaston High School placed first in the super varsity category at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Cheerleading Invitational.  Prior to winning the state competition, the team took first place at the Piedmont Regionals.

The East Gaston cheerleaders are coached by April Sadler, who guided the team to their first-place regional and state honors.

Lauren Tolbert, State Champion, Track and Field
Lauren Tolbert of the Highland School of Technology is a nine-time state champion in cross country and track and field.  She has set state records in track and field and cross country and received the Most Outstanding Performer Award. 

Her college plans include attending Duke University to pursue a degree in biology or related field.  She wants to go to dental school and specialize in oral surgery.  Tolbert hopes that her winning efforts in running continue at Duke as she aspires to qualify for the United States Olympic Team.  

Asher Neumann, State Champion, Swimming
Asher Neumann from the Highland School of Technology claimed the 1A/2A individual state swimming championship in the 200-yard freestyle competition.  

Neumann has been involved with the school’s swimming team for four years and served as the team captain for three years.  This fall, he will attend North Carolina State University and plans to study engineering.

Ashlynn Stephens, N.C. Volleyball Player of the Year
Ashlynn Stephens from the Highland School of Technology was named the 1A North Carolina Volleyball Player of the Year.  The honor is presented by the North Carolina Volleyball Coaches Association.

Stephens, who is a leader as the volleyball team captain, also received numerous all-conference and MVP honors for her standout performances on the volleyball court, which includes leading the team to the state volleyball playoffs.  This fall, Stephens plans to attend Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.  

Janiya Adams and Randall Pettus, Basketball Standouts
Janiya Adams and Randall Pettus are basketball standouts from Bessemer City High School. 

Last year, Adams set a new Gaston County single-game scoring record, and this year, she broke her own record by scoring 55 points in a game.  She is the first Gaston County girls basketball player to score 50 points in a single game.  Additionally, Adams was named an all-conference and all-district performer in basketball.

Pettus also broke a single-game scoring record, totaling 60 points in a single game.  The previous record of 59 points dated back to 1969.  Pettus is a two-time winner of the Gaston County Basketball Player of the Year Award, and he was named the Conference Player of the Year after leading his team to the fourth round of the state playoffs.

Ryan Harris, Defensive Player of the Year
Ryan Harris from South Point High School received the Luke Kuechly Defensive Player of the Year recognition.  The award is given by the Charlotte Touchdown Club to an area high school football player who has excelled in four areas: scholarship, sportsmanship, leadership, and citizenship.  

By having the Charlotte Touchdown Club’s Defensive Player of the Year, the South Point High School athletics department received a $2,000 honorarium in Harris’ name.  Harris plans to attend UNC-Charlotte.

Sullivan Absher, University of Notre Dame
South Point High School football standout Sullivan Absher announced live on CBS Sports HQ his decision to attend the University of Notre Dame. 

Only a junior at South Point, Absher is a highly-recruited left tackle and ranks as the tenth best football prospect in North Carolina.  He also ranks number 22 in the country for offensive tackles.  Not only is Absher a great football player, he ranks among the top students academically in the Class of 2023.